393

Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabate: Kulanjan

By

Sign in to view read count
Like the 1997 release Sacred Island, Kulanjan sees Taj Mahal blending the blues with ethnic folk music. While the earlier album explored the music of Hawaii, however, here Taj and the Malian kora player Toumani Diabate seek to reveal the connections between the blues and the music of Western Mali.

And these connections are apparent from the opening cut, a new version of Taj's "Queen Bee". Diabate's kora - plucked, according to the excellent sleeve notes, using a technique similar to the finger-thumb style of guitar playing Taj learned from earlier blues masters - drives this pretty, country blues while Ramatou Diakite's honeyed vocals on her improvised Wasulunke lyrics perfectly complement Taj's distinctive, gravelly voice. Other tracks that come from the blues, rather than the Malian, tradition are just as successful. Taj and Diabate's take on the traditional "Ol' Georgie Buck" sounds like the only way to play this song after just one listen. Curiously, this cut reminds me of Led Zeppelin's early '70s attempts to fuse their Willie Dixon-influenced electric blues with English folk ("Gallows Pole", "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" and "The Battle of Evermore"), which either shows one of the many wonderful, hidden connections between the musics of the world, or that I'm losing my mind. "Catfish Blues", meanwhile, is the album's purest blues in form, yet it is Diabate's retuned kora that lifts the song far above the hundreds like it.

The Malian cuts sound, perhaps only to this untrained ear, mostly like straight West-African folk music. Connections between the two traditions are still apparent here, however. "Fanta" takes the Malian tradition of the praise song and renders it as an infectious Cajun blues, sung in French by Taj and dedicated to Diabate's wife. And "Guede Man Na", although a million miles from the blues in form, has the heartfelt sadness of great blues music.

Ultimately, though, deciding which of the album's tracks can be termed as 'blues' and which are 'Malian' is a fairly pointless exercise. Taj and Diabate effortlessly fuse elements of both musics, and in Kulanjan they have produced a superb release that succeeds on its own terms.

Track Listing: 1. Queen Bee 2.Tunkaranke 3.Ol' Georgie Buck 4.Kulanjan 5.Fanta 6.Guede Man Na 7.Catfish Blues 8.K'an Ben 9.Take This Hammer 10. Atlanta Kaira 11. Mississippi-Mali Blues 12. SaharaPersonnelTaj Mahal - vocals, guitar, piano (5); Toumani Diabate - kora; Kassemady Diabate - vocals (2,4, 5,6,8,10, 12), guitar (8); Ramatou Diakite - vocals (1,6,, 9, 10, 12); Bassekou Kouyate - ngoni, bass ngoni; Dougouye Koulibaly - kamalengoni, bolon (6,12); Lasana Diabate - balafon; Ballake Sissoko - kora (3,6,7,9,10)

| Record Label: Hannibal Records | Style: Blues


Shop

More Articles

Read Speechless CD/LP/Track Review Speechless
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 27, 2017
Read Holiday On Fire CD/LP/Track Review Holiday On Fire
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 27, 2017
Read Calvins Toboggan CD/LP/Track Review Calvins Toboggan
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: April 27, 2017
Read Silent Light CD/LP/Track Review Silent Light
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 27, 2017
Read PausaLive CD/LP/Track Review PausaLive
by Patrick Keyes
Published: April 27, 2017
Read Adam's Apple CD/LP/Track Review Adam's Apple
by Greg Simmons
Published: April 26, 2017
Read "Abbey Road Sessions, Vol 1" CD/LP/Track Review Abbey Road Sessions, Vol 1
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 25, 2016
Read "Umbra" CD/LP/Track Review Umbra
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 31, 2016
Read "Bandit 65" CD/LP/Track Review Bandit 65
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 13, 2017
Read "Porcupine Meat" CD/LP/Track Review Porcupine Meat
by James Nadal
Published: September 29, 2016
Read "Eos" CD/LP/Track Review Eos
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 28, 2017
Read "Pale White Shout" CD/LP/Track Review Pale White Shout
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 10, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!